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The Simple Dollar

How to downgrade your job but not your life

Switching jobs may mean an initial pay cut, but there could be perks to doing it anyway.

By Guest blogger / March 2, 2011

For some people, switching to a job that you can do from home allows for more time with family and greater flexibility of hours. Guest blogger Trent Hamm gives some tips of how to live within your means, even if you're making less money than you used to.

Photo illustration/Don Hammond/Design Pics/Newscom

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In March 2008, I walked away from a great job into a writing career path that, at the time, paid me about 50% of what I was making at my previous job.

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To a lot of people in my life, this seemed like an amazingly difficult step. That move reduced our monthly household income (at the time) by about 30% and seemingly did away with a great deal of job security. Why would I possibly make this move?

I did it for several reasons.

I wanted to spend more time with my family. Over the last few years of my previous job, I felt like I was constantly traveling and away from my family. I also felt that, even when I was around, I was having my family time constantly interrupted by work needs. I did not want to be that kind of absent parent and, for me, talking about wanting to be a great parent was more than just talk. I was going to walk the walk, too.

This was probably the only window of opportunity life would hand me to become a writer. Writing is something I’d always dreamed of doing for a living, but it always felt like something that would never realistically happen. When I first went to college, part of me wanted to major in English lit, but I chose not to do that solely because I felt like there was no income-generating career path other than being an English teacher.

My career path was one where I would never be able to significantly increase my pay based on hard work. I had no chance of ever building a large income stream from my job, no matter what I did.

Our spending was under control. We were not only spending less than our combined salaries, we were spending less than our combined salaries after I switched career paths.

I did not feel as though my previous job was actually helping anyone improve their life. I spent most of my time exploring abstract problems and answering abstract questions. While it was intellectually stimulating, it was quite often spiritually depressing.

I wanted more time flexibility. I often felt very productive early in the morning and completely useless in the mid afternoon, with another productivity bounce in the evening. The nature of my job meant that I couldn’t work when I was productive and find other things to do during my unproductive periods. I had to work for a set period each day, and at least some of that set period overlapped with my unproductive times during the day.

These reasons together made for a compelling case to switch careers when the right opportunity came along.

But what made that opportunity? How did I find a situation where I could make that kind of radical change in my life without losing the things I valued?

For us, it broke down to six key elements. I believe that if you cultivate these six elements in your own life, you’ll open the doors to the kind of career and life change that you’ve always wanted.

Live well below your means
This is first and foremost. If your standard of living makes your current salary a requirement, then your ability to make a major career change is almost nil. In short, you’re choosing the expensive things in your life over career freedom. For some people, that’s a healthy choice, but if you’re reading this article, chances are that you are yearning for some career freedom. Getting your spending under control is absolutely necessary.

Many people view such spending changes as deprivation. Instead, I suggest viewing it as an exploration. What’s the most enjoyment you can have without spending a dime? If you use that as a constraint right off the bat, you’ll often find yourself exploring new things while also channeling your life towards financial stability.

Maximize your monthly cash flow
This goes hand in hand with reducing your spending. A person maximizes their monthly cash flow by minimizing every single one of their bills. Pay off all of your debts. Focus on efforts to reduce your monthly bills – electricity, telephone, food, shelter, and so on. Live in a smaller place than you might otherwise afford.